Tracker: Is Colter Shaw Inspired by a Real Survivalist?

Image Credit: Michael Courtney/CBS

In CBS’ ‘Tracker,’ Justin Hartley plays the role of Colter Shaw, a survivalist who works cases that offer a reward. In every episode, he has to track someone different, with each case taking him to a different part of the country. Because he moves around a lot, he doesn’t have many connections that last long, but there are a few permanent bonds that he has forged. Meanwhile, his relationship with his family remains fraught, which serves as a consistent device for drama throughout the season. Hartley plays the role with a charm that makes Shaw more real to the audience. But where does the inspiration for the character come from?

Colter Shaw is a Fictional Character Created by Jeffery Deaver

Image Credit: Michael Courtney/CBS

‘Tracker’ is based on the book titled ‘The Never Game’ by author Jeffery Deaver. Colter Shaw serves as its protagonist, and much like every episode of the show presents a different story, every book in the series offers a new challenge to the protagonist. Deaver has written bestselling books like ‘The Bone Collector,’ which was adapted into a film starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in 1999. He started the Colter Shaw series with ‘The Never Game’ and has four books published in the series so far.

The idea to write the story with a survivalist as its protagonist came to Deaver after he wrote another series about a location scout for Hollywood. That role required the protagonist to travel around the country, looking for the locations where the movies could be set and filmed. In that story, the location scout unintentionally gets involved in a case when he goes to an obscure town where his skills are called into action. He becomes a detective to solve the case and save the day. The success of the story encouraged Deaver to further explore this premise, where the protagonist was not limited by their location and would have the freedom to move around a lot. The change in locations would always keep the “stranger comes to town” part relevant and would keep the author free to keep experimenting with new stories in the same setting.

Image Credit: Michael Courtney/CBS

He could have continued with the location scout, but Deaver wanted a grittier protagonist. The character’s job, which kept him tied to Hollywood, also acted as a deterrent, so the author decided to make some changes. The idea of someone who works for rewards seemed closer to the themes of a crime thriller than a location scout. Deaver also realized that he had never heard of a major protagonist with this job, which meant it would offer something fresh to the audience. A reward seeker’s cases would also be broader as compared to a private detective and would seamlessly play into the idea of someone nomadic, who moves around for his job.

Once Deaver had settled upon the protagonist’s background, he delved into research, referring to all kinds of sources to figure out what a reward seeker’s life looks like. He knew that the reward seeker would have to have a certain skill set that would set him apart and make him great at his job. This brought in the point of making him a survivalist, wihch further helped develop his backstory, making him a richer character in the process.

It is unclear whether Deaver had any specific survivalist in mind when he started writing Colter Shaw’s story, but it’s clear that he did his research to make the character come across as realistic as possible. When the character was to be brought alive on the screen, the creators of ‘Tracker,’ which includes Hartley, did their best to portray Colter in a way that makes him instantly likable to the audience and relate to him better.

Read More: Is CBS’ Tracker Inspired by a True Story?